First Down: Falling Andre, rising Cobb and sleepy Lions

Roto Arcade

Andre Johnson is peanut brittle.

It's becoming increasingly clear.

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Over the weekend, the breakable wideout suffered a strained groin, a setback that will keep him out of action through Monday.

Though minor, the derailment is just the latest in a long line of physical issues for the multi-time All-Pro. Last year, recurring hamstring problems cost him nine games. And in May, he underwent a "clean-up" procedure on his right knee. Suffice it to say, his flesh is an injury imp favorite.

Once considered one of the more trustworthy commodities in virtual pigskin, Johnson has become the Frank Gore of receivers, a once reliable points source whose reputation is marred by fragility. Since 2007, he's played 16 games in a season only twice. His newest ailment only heightens owner concern.

Johnson might be the most miscast wideout in fantasy. Every year, it seems, thousands of owners dislocate shoulders reaching for the Texan's services early in drafts. It's asinine. Though he finished inside the WR top-three in consecutive years from 2008-2009, he's NEVER recorded a 10 score season. On a team that called "run" 58-percent of the time even when Matt Schaub was in action last year, it's doubtful, despite his bold predictions, he'll suddenly reclaim his 100-1500-9 form. Houston is Arian Foster's town. It's unlikely Gary Kubiak will dramatically overhaul the playbook coming off the Texans' first ever playoff appearance. If it ain't broke...

For fantasy purposes, Johnson should be stiff-armed on draft day. At his current Round 2 standing in 12-team formats (23.1 ADP, WR5), he's too rich to risk. Because of the league's passing proclivity, wide receiver is a bottomless abyss of value. Though there's an argument to be made for Calvin Johnson in Round 1, owners who exercise patience at the position will be rewarded in the end. Jeremy Maclin, Antonio Brown and Eric Decker, all going between picks No. 55-75, are three reasons why.

What's cooler than being cool? Andre 3000.

Rumblings out of Green Bay camp about upstart Randall Cobb could soon make the receiver a staple on owner cheat sheets. According to local reports, the second-year wideout has been far and away the most impressive target in Packers camp. He's caught almost everything in sight and amazed onlookers with his route-running ability, shiftiness and blazing speed, prompting Mike McCarthy to devise new schemes to reward the youngster with additional opportunities.

Cobb roared out of the gate last year versus New Orleans, scoring two TDs, one on a 32-yard reception, the other on a jaw-dropping 108-yard kickoff return. Sadly, that's where his rookie season peaked. Over the remainder of the season, he managed just 23 receptions for 340 yards and zero scores. However, because Donald Driver has been around since the Woodrow Wilson presidency, it seems likely Cobb will officially overtake the long-toothed slot man in short order. Aaron Rodgers has a ton of weapons at his disposal, but in an increased role, it's certainly possible the versatile product could develop into a poor man's Percy Harvin, netting touches in variable ways (e.g. receptions, kick returns, handoffs).

At his current price (121.1 Y! ADP, WR49), he's a low-risk, high-reward play, particularly in return yardage leagues. If it all comes together, an upper-tiered WR3 campaign isn't out of the question. Butter the Cobb.

Chris Johnson, coming off a gut-wrenching slide, remains a point of contention among the fantasy community. Many believe a bounce-back season is a certainty. Others, meanwhile, continue to express a bearish attitude toward the back.

An ESPN report posted Monday, detailing CJ2LAME's expected decrease in catches, only enhances the negative:

Injuries may have led the Titans to look to him more often than they would have liked, and coming from a West Coast offense system, Hasselbeck may have looked to his back sooner and more often than Palmer's more vertical plan will want.

"I think I was a little bit more involved in the pass offense with Dinger," he said. "But with the situation that we've got here, since I got here we got a lot of playmakers on this offense. So it feels good to see a couple receivers out there putting up good numbers. I feel like it's a different situation, if there's a lot of us contributing, a lot of us making plays, I feel like it's not a bad thing that I probably don't get as many catches as I usually do."

Johnson added muscle to his slender frame over the offseason and is running with more purpose so far in camp. Unlike his post-payday swoon, he seems motivated to prove he still belongs among the league's elite. Owners shouldn't put too much stock into the anticipated volume decline. For a home run hitter like Johnson, Chris Palmer's direction could be addition by subtraction. He's very capable of matching what Jamaal Charles did two years ago with a similar lightened workload (Roughly 16-18 touches per game).

To be fair, Johnson is slightly overvalued at his current late-first ADP (10.1, RB6), but, assuming the Titans offensive line is much improved, a top-eight effort is in the cards. Keep the faith.

"The Director," Kevin Smith, may not be a blockbuster name, but don't be shocked if he's a surprise hit at the Week 1 box office. With Jahvid Best's availability becoming increasingly murky and Mike Leshoure hampered by a tender hammy, the afterthought is taking advantage of a ripe situation.

Many Lions insiders believe Jim Schwartz wants to install a Saints-like rotating backfield, but because of Best's uncertainty and Leshoure's two-game suspension and inability to stay healthy, a classic one-back system may become a necessity for Detroit over the regular season's first two games, which could fire Smith out of a cannon. The Lions face St. Louis Week 1, a team that finished inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to RBs in six of the last seven seasons.

Mark the Noise's words, Smith will the biggest surprise sensation of opening week action, making him an incredible value at his current 121.0 ADP (RB43) in average Y! drafts. Commit his name to memory.

Long-term, Smith, Leshoure and Best should form a timeshare, with the ex-Illini likely emerging as the most fantasy desirable of the trio. His powerful build and excellent open-field burst are best suited for early-down/goal-line work. But until he can stay on the practice field for at least a week, he remains a major question mark. Monitor his progress.

In other Motor City news, second-year hot rod Titus Young continues to write "Unstoppable!" headlines in the local press. He's enticed many an eye with his dazzling play in camp, leading onlookers to conclude a breakout season is in the offing.

Everyone smells rosy this time of year. Even Blaine Gabbert is emitting a rather pleasant odor. It's entirely possible Young's stellar camp is a byproduct of the Lions' still putrid secondary. However, the hype is completely believable. Though erratic at times during his rookie season, he was occasionally useful, snatching 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns. Because Nate Burleson isn't getting any younger and with Calvin Johnson drawing so much attention, a quantum leap in production for Young could be in the cards.

Many wonder if Matthew Stafford will be pressed to throw another 600-plus times, but considering Detroit's inefficiencies in pass defense and tough intradivisional schedule, the 5K passer will again be involved in numerous shootouts, enhancing the value of those around him.

Young, like Cobb, is a NFC North receiver poised to turn a mega profit (124.2 Y! ADP, WR51). A 70-1100-8 season for the former Boise St. star is conceivable. Keep stealing him in the middle rounds.


NFL Network reported Tuesday Jake Locker has a leg up over Matt Hasselbeck in the Titans' starting QB competition. The former Washington standout is arguably the most intriguing passing prospect going well after pick No. 100 in early drafts. His outstanding athleticism and cannon arm could lead to Michael Vick-lite numbers, with or without Kenny Britt. Johnson, Nate Washington, Jared Cook and freshly signed rookie Kendall Wright comprise an above average arsenal. If an opponent pulls the rug out from underneath you for Robert Griffin III, Locker is a nice consolation prize.

The Brandon Lloyd hype machine continues to work overtime. It should. According to ESPN Boston, he's established an instant bond with Tom Brady, hooking up with Mr. Bundchen on several eye-popping catches. In a pass-first offense generaled by the AFC's best signal caller and with Josh McDaniels deciding the plays, 2010's WR king is in line to score big. Yes, there are tons of mouths to feed, but if presented with several one-on-one situations he could be a mini-Moss (Randy) of sorts, which is why I heart him more than Wes Welker in standard formats. Lloyd is a fringe WR1 available at a WR2 price (54.4 Y! ADP, WR24).

Josh Gordon's brief NFL journey has been captivating. Before the Browns jumped on him in the second round of June's supplemental draft, the receiver played sparingly at Baylor, booted from the team after twice testing positive for marijuana prior to his junior year. He also admitted to another failed test while with Utah in 2011. With his problems allegedly in the past, he's on the verge of earning plenty of PT opposite Greg Little. Remarkable. Though raw, one team executive recently compared the 6-foot-4, 220-pound target to Randy Moss. On Tuesday, Browns beat man Vic Carucci added to the buzz describing the rookie as the club's "most physically gifted pass-catcher … a combination of exceptional size, strength and athleticism."

The more experienced Little is the Browns WR to own, but if Gordon's meteoric rise continues, he could make a fantasy impact by midseason. Playing behind a revamped offensive line and with Trent Richardson toting the rock, Brandon Weeden may be better than advertised. Dynasty fans, Gordon is your diamond-in-the-rough.

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski and Dalton Del Don on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio

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